• Archimedes777

Why Constant Updates Aren't Necessary

There is a place, a place that game developers love (probably) and fear (almost certainly). It is a place where gamers gather to congratulate and to eviscerate. It is a place where one dare not stay too long, lest one lose themselves in the cacophony of self-righteousness and memes. That place, my friends, is Reddit.


Even a cursory perusal of r/apexlegends will provide you with several posts advocating an increased update tempo for the game. People complain that Apex Legends' first battle pass sucks. People complain that the skins are boring. People complain that there aren't enough new legends. People complain that Apex Legends is getting stale and needs more updates, you know, like Fortnite! Essentially, people complain.


Now, I can complain with the best of them. Ask anyone. I'd like to think, however, that I complain in a way that shows respect for the developers and advocates for something that actually needs to happen to make the game better. For example, you won't catch me complaining about skins, but you may hear me complain that a hit box seems broken or that a gun seems inconsistent: I'm looking at you, Peacekeeper.


One thing I do know is this: updates for updates' sake is a terrible approach to game development. I also think that Apex Legends isn't the kind of game that needs constant updates to content. Here's why:


Devs Don't Need to Suffer


Game development is hard. If you regularly read any game industry news site (I tend to go with Kotaku; Destructoid; or Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but there are countless other good ones), you will know that game developers are working a lot of hours. These people have families, and, like the rest of us, I'm sure that they would like to see them every now and then.


More updates means more work. The game that Apex Legends gets compared to often is Fortnite. When I read things like this Polygon article, I feel genuinely bad for the people who are making that game successful. Sure, it's the most popular game on the planet, but at what cost?


Thankfully, Respawn has been up front about their desire to allow their devs to have a reasonable work-life balance. I applaud them for doing so, and I wish more studios would treat their talent this way.


I am sure lots of gamers don't care about these working conditions, though. (Although, take a few minutes to consider what 100-hour work weeks would look like for you. You probably wouldn't have much time for writing that scathing Reddit post about lazy devs now, would you?) For those gamers who don't care about the people making their games, here are a couple of reasons why more frequent updates won't necessarily make Apex Legends a better game:


New Characters and Guns May Break the Balance


We all like seeing new things in the game. Remember just before Octane arrived on the scene and we had a jump pad outside of Market for a little bit? I am not too big to admit that I died once because I was super curious about what it was, and I lingered a little too long in a bad position.


When Octane actually arrived, encounters changed. There was this new guy who could move really quickly in battle and could get to positions that in previous engagements you were only really paying attention to if the other team had a Pathfinder. While the change didn't break anything (except some players who thought that Respawn wanted them to lone wolf all of a sudden), the reason for that is that Octane was a well-considered addition to the lineup of heroes. The devs knew he was coming, and they built accordingly.


If the game was adding new heroes weekly, you'd almost certainly end up with one that broke the game in some way, as there would be less time spent considering how all of that characters' abilities interact with other characters' abilities, or how those abilities could be exploited by excellent players. Of course it's entirely possible to balance a large list of characters, but how many things can you think of that are really missing from the lineup of characters that would add for much more interesting encounters while not also breaking some of the balance?


For example, I would love to see a Sylar-type hero in the game, one who could steal abilities that were used around him or her or from killed heroes. I can see ways to make this work by limiting frequency of use, but I can also see ways that such a character would be entirely broken and lead to some very, very confusing encounters.


Obviously this is an extreme example, but coming up with new heroes isn't easy, and when you do come up with them, you have to play-test them. The same goes for guns.


The introduction of the Havoc wasn't game-changing, but introducing a new weapon every week might be, and eventually you may find yourself complaining either: a) there are too many poor guns lying around when I drop; or b) this gun is o.p. Neither is a good situation. So, guns also have to be tested to see where they fit in the game's ecosystem.


"But it's the devs jobs to do this!" people complain. Sure, but ultimately it is their job to make the game fun and challenging, and the game is already fun and challenging, so adding new things just to have new things seems entirely unnecessary.


Change for the Sake of Change


Chess is a pretty popular game. It has been around, according to Wikipedia, since around the 7th century. The Queen in chess was originally a much weaker piece. She gained her current abilities sometime around the 12th century. As far as I can tell, the movement of the "characters" in chess hasn't changed since then. I think Apex Legends can probably survive with character additions only once every few months.


The example may seem ridiculous. In some ways it is. Video games and board games are different beasts. The general point I'm making is that games can retain their fun without having to constantly change.


Sports rules change now and then, but not in the middle of a season. They change yearly (if that frequently). People still watch. People still play. Again, you may argue that games aren't sports. Fine.


If you prefer a video game example, Tetris is still a pretty popular game. The core game is the same as it was three decades ago; the introduction of Tetris 99 doesn't really alter the core game because the core game is already solid. I would argue that Apex Legends has a similar core loop that is already fantastic, so changing it just to appease people's desire for something new isn't necessary.


As I wrote above, I am not talking about changes that are necessary to fix a bug or an exploit; I am talking here more about the constant introduction of new skins and other aesthetic changes. Sure, skins are fun, but this is a first-person shooter; when do you see those $18 skins? I mean, Respawn can add them all they (or, probably more accurately, EA) want to, but I'm not buying them. Are they harmful? Not generally, but I don't really want to watch a game I really enjoy devolve into some sort of endless advertisement. There are only so many changes you can make to a character's or a gun's look, and none of them add anything to the actual game. If the skins are ugly, they may actually reduce my enjoyment of the game. Haven't you ever picked up someone else's gun with a god-awful skin on it and seriously considered not using the gun? Maybe that's just me...


Let's Wrap It Up


I was going to continue on a bit of a tirade (see, I can complain, too!) about the games-as-service model. Suffice it to say, I hate it, and maybe I will write about it sometime. For now, I just want to reiterate that Apex Legends is in a good place. Patches are coming steadily enough, and the devs have learned (I hope) from the mistakes of the first battle pass. The devs work in what appear to be decent conditions, and they are making regular improvements to a game we love.


There is nothing wrong with complaints, but let's use them to make the game better for players and for the devs that make this thing we enjoy so much.










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